15 December 1807

John Dunkin, Woodham Mortimer, to Mary Hays, [most likely Park Street, Islington], 15 December 1807.1


       Accept my best Thanks my Dear Mary for your favor of the first Inst, and be assured the observations I made in my last were from the best possible motives – Happiness, which we have both been convinced is not to be found in this Life, appears to me to be so clearly pointed out in a future State, that it seems to be the only one thing needful, and the only thing worthy the pursuit of an immortal Mind – the insufficiency of human reason alone, can never lead us to it – if it had been possible – revelation woud have been unnecessary – where reason fails, faith and revelation happily come to our aid – there are some speculative points which I consider as nonessentials, and to differ on them is of little consequence; but those which respect the sacrifice & atonement of Jesus Xt I believe are of the first importance  – they relieve our minds as fallen Creatures, and point out the way for acceptance with God consistent with his attributes and perfections – faith in our Saviour connected with Love I consider as the strongest of all possible motives to obedience, and where it has not that effect it cannot be genuine – On these subjects I consider there are difficulties, but if we believe nothing more than we can fully comprehend we shall hardly believe any thing.

    I have not yet seen the Edinburgh review of Dr Beatie on Truth,2 but I shall make a point to look for it, that I may learn your sentiments thereon – It came to me on Saturday and I have only since then had time to read the preface and introduction – from the life of Beatie, I was much pleased with his Ideas on Common Sense – denoting the power of the Mind which perceives Truth, or commands belief; not by progressive argumentation, but by an instantaneous,2 instinctive, and irresistible impulse, derived neither from Education, nor from habit, but from Nature – ‘As it acts independently of our Will when ever its object is presented, according to an establishd Law of the Mind; he considers it to be properly a Sense; and as it acts in a similar manner on all Mankind, when in fair and natural Circumstances, he considers it as properly called Common Sense; consequently Common Sense must be the best judge of Truth, and to which Reason must continually act in subordination – The Religion of the Bible is addressd to all, and so plain to Common Ideas, that the wayfaring Man, tho’ a stranger to deep investigation, may not err.

    I wish you and my Dear Sarah ^not^ to attribute Emma’s3 silence to want of affection or neglect; for she is to me every thing I can wish a Daughter to be, and such another I hope to find in Sarah – she possesses the greatest Sensibility & Affection, yet I never saw her out of temper five Minutes in my Life – As I intend being in London about Xmas I shall defer till then saying anything about Sarah4 or Marianna5 – My mind for some time past has been so much occupied about my son Thomas,6 for whose present & future happiness I have felt so much, and not only for Nights, to deprive me of proper rest, but greatly also to injure my Health –

     I have enquired twice for the life and Sentiments of Nothanker from ^the^ German,7 but have not been able to get it; must therefore defer the reading of it till I come to Town – I wish her and you also to read a new publication by Hh More, called Talents improvd8 – this also is very entertaining as a Novel conveying religious sentiments, and I think it likely to do much good.

     I have been writing this at Beeleigh, with a bad pen and having left my Glasses at home coud not mend it – I have a young Porker now feeding on Skim Milk & Meal – half of which I intend for you, the other half for Mrs Francis9 – If I send the whole to her, perhaps it can be conveyed to Islington by the Stage – by a Letter from Mr F a few Days past I understood Mrs F had been very ill with a Billious fever – I am very anxious to know if she continues mending –

    We are now in daily expectation of Mr Palmer’s arrival – a day or two after I suppose he will take Mrs Palmer10 away with him – She has Contributed by her Spirits & Vivacity very much in Shortening the gloom of Winter – make my affectionate love to Sarah, whom I long to see, and with the kindest remembrances to your Mother & all friends in your Circle, be assured I am sincerely & affy


                                                       John Dunkin Jr


Woodham Mortimer Lodge

Decr 15. 1807 –

1 Misc. Ms. 2284, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 488-90.

2 See Edinburgh Review 10 (1807), 171-99.

3 Emma Dunkin (b. c. 1790) married her cousin, William Hills (b. 1784), son of Thomas and Sarah Hays Hills, on 7 December 1810 at Hazeleigh Church, Maldon, Essex. She was living with her father at Woodham Mortimer at the time and Hills was living with his mother and sister in the family home in the Minories. After their marriage, they would settle in a townhome in Canonbury Lane, a part of Canonbury Square, which still remains to this day. It was Emma Dunkin Hills to whom Elizabeth Hays Lanfear dedicated Fatal Errors in 1819, still living at that time in Canonbury Square. They would later move to Maze Hill, Greenwich, during the time that Mary Hays lived nearby in Vanbrugh Castle.

4 Sarah Dunkin (1793-1875) married George Wedd (1785-1854) at Hazeleigh Church, Church, Maldon, in August 1812 (Monthly Magazine, vol. 34 (1812, part 2, p. 280). He was another nephew of J. T. Rutt and a distant relation of Crabb Robinson; she was one of Mary Hays’s favorite nieces and the one who retained most of Mary Hays’s papers. Prior to their marriage Wedd had been living in Gainsford Street (most likely living in the Hays's family home, for at the time of Mrs Hays's death in 1812, she still owned that property, though she had not lived there since 1803). It appears he was working initially with John Dunkin and Thomas Hays. After 1808, however, he became a partner with Dunkin and John Hays, with their business address listed as 89 Shad Thames, the street adjacent to Gainsford Street in Southwark, In 1819 the Wedds were still living in Gainsford Street (Sarah Wedd subscribes to Fatal Errors that year from that location); they may have taken over the Hays residence but most likely they did not. By the mid-1820s they were living in Greenwich, near several of Sarah's sisters and her aunt, Mary Hays. In the 1841 Census, the Wedds were living in Grove Street, Hackney, once again not far from Mary Hays in Clapton. In the 1851 Census, the Wedds were living in Middle Road, Islington, with George Wedd still listed as a Corn Merchant. Sarah Dunkin Wedd was listed as having been born in Kent Road, Surrey, which would have been the Paragon Place address of the Dunkins from 1792 to 1798. The Wedd children listed in the 1851 census include the following: Joanna Dunkin Wedd, age 35; Ellen Dunkin Wedd, age 34; Susanna S. Wedd, 32; George Wedd, 29; Harriet A. Wedd, 29, all of the above born in Southwark, Surrey; Mary Dunkin Wedd, 25, and Joseph V. Wedd, 21, both born in Greenwich, Kent (the Wedds are living in Greenwich about the same time as the Hills and the Bennetts); Henry Arthur Wedd, 19, and Frances E. Wedd, 16, born in Clapton, Middlesex. [Compare with Wedd family tree.] H. A. Wedd (21 March 1832-89) married Lydia Budgett, and their daughter, Anne Frances Wedd (1875-1958) in the 1920s published the collection of letters between Hays and Eccles and later some letters pertaining to the Fenwicks.  Sarah Dunkin Wedd died on 8 May 1875 at Leinster Square, Bayswater, London.

5 Marianna Dunkin Bennett (b. c. 1795), along with her sisters Elizabeth and Sarah (all daughters of John Dunkin, Jr.), lived their aunt Mary Hays c. 1807-08 in Islington. Marianna married William Bennett  (b. 1790) of Faringdon House, Berkshire, in 1817. In 1837 he became High Sheriff of Berkshire. At the time of the publication of Elizabeth Hays Lanfear's Fatal Errors, just two years after their marriage, the Bennetts lived at Vanbrugh House [sometimes called “Mince-pie House,” on the grounds of Vanbrugh Castle] on Maize Hill in Greenwich, next door to Mary Hays, who lived in Vanbrugh Castle between 1823 and 1831.  For more on Marianna Bennett, see her entry in the Biographical Index.

6 Thomas Dunkin (d. 1861) married Mary Olton. He appears in John Dunkin’s letter to Mary Hays of 15 December 1807 and again in the 3 March letter; young Dunkin and his wife appear in Crabb Robinson’s diary on 30 April 1811 at a dinner at John Hays’s house. He is described as a late “officer in the army,” which fits Dunkin’s letters to Hays. Christopher Dunkin (most likely Thomas’s cousin, or possibly his uncle) and his wife are also present. Robinson writes, “We had a political argumt of the worst description because it was most stupid – But there was hardly another topic open to us in such a party.” 

7 Reference is to the Life and Opinions of Sebaldus Nothanker by Friedrich Nicolai (1733-1811), translated by Thomas Dutton (London: C. Lowndes and sold by H. D. Symonds, 1798).

8 Source not found.

9 John Dunkin’s daughter, Elizabeth (1787-1825), married Henry Francis (1781-1847) of St. Aldermanbury, London, at St. Giles, Camberwell, on 17 May 1803. According to Eliza Fenwick, Mrs. Francis either operated her own school or worked as an assistant in one a few years after this letter. She would be particularly close to Mary Hays during the latter's residence in Vanbrugh Castle in Greenwich, when the Francises lived on the same street.  She died prematurely in 1825, one month before Hays's sister, Elizabeth, died. 

10 Joanna Dunkin, Dunkin’s eldest daughter, married Nathaniel Palmer  (1774-1840) of Southwark on 21 June 1798; they moved to Aldermanbury, in London, and remained there for many years. He, like Dunkin, became a successful cornfactor. His brother, Samuel (1775-1848), was the father of the celebrated Romantic painter, Samuel Palmer (1805-81).